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High potassium level puts many foods on do-not-eat list
By Dr. Peter Gott | Columnist
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Published: 11/16/2009 12:08 AM

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Q. I have been diagnosed with a high potassium level. I was told to add salt to more foods. I was also given a list of foods not to eat, including dried figs, molasses, seaweed, dates, prunes, nuts, avocados, lima beans, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, winter squash, beets, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwis, oranges, mangoes, beef, pork, veal, lamb, bran cereals, wheat germ and much, much more. Can you tell me what I can eat?

A. A high potassium level, also known as hyperkalemia, is often caused by a kidney disorder that reduces the kidneys' ability to excrete the mineral. Other causes can include tissue trauma, increased consumption of potassium and certain medications.

Hyperkalemia doesn't usually cause symptoms, but occasionally, some people may experience nausea, an irregular heartbeat and/or a slow or weak pulse. Because of a lack of symptoms, the condition may go undiagnosed for quite some time, especially if the sufferer does not have regular medical examinations that include blood work.

There are two types of treatment: acute and long-term. People with extremely high potassium levels or severe symptoms are considered acute and require close monitoring in a hospital setting. Medication, dialysis and intravenous calcium and glucose along with insulin may be used depending on the cause of the elevated potassium. Long-term treatment usually begins by treating the cause of the elevation.

People with chronic kidney disease or hyperkalemia should consume 1,500 to 2,700 milligrams or less of potassium daily. Healthy people should consume around 4,700 milligrams daily. Meet with a nutritionist, who can aid you in developing a balanced, low-potassium meal plan.

Q. I had plantar fasciitis for more than a year, and nothing the doctors gave me helped. After just three acupuncture treatments with some massage and mustard baths, the pain was gone. Two of my friends also suffered with this for years but don't believe that acupuncture really works. Do you?

A. I've not heard of acupuncture helping the pain of plantar fasciitis, inflammation or irritation of the thick band of tissue known as the plantar fascia, on the bottom of the foot, that causes pain. Typical treatment consists of medication to reduce inflammation, physical therapy, orthotics and night splints. In severe or persistent cases, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (sound waves that may stimulate healing) or surgical detachment of the plantar fascia may be advised.

Home remedies, such as staying off your feet whenever the pain is severe, using ice, stretching the arches, doing low-impact exercises such as swimming, and adding arch supports to shoes may go a long way in reducing pain.

The good news is that most cases resolve within a few months with conservative measures.

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